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UN climate conference could have distinctly Mass. flair this weekend

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides speaks during a press conference at Assawompsett Pond in Middleborough in 2020. Theoharides is heading to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this weekend. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides speaks during a press conference at Assawompsett Pond in Middleborough in 2020. Theoharides is heading to the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow this weekend. (Erin Clark/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The second and final week of the United Nations climate change conference could have a distinctly Massachusetts flair as climate policy experts flock to Glasgow, Scotland with Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides at the front of the pack representing the Bay State.

The secretary plans to attend the second week of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 26th Conference of Parties (COP26), which began on Oct. 31, and intends to return to Massachusetts on Friday. While in Scotland, Theoharides hopes to spread the word about climate policies and programs that have been successful for Massachusetts and learn about ideas that have worked elsewhere.

"What's really important about states and subnationals going to this conference is two-fold. One, it's an opportunity for us to share the solutions we've been developing and piloting in our own parts of the country and our own parts of the world," Theoharides, who also attended the 2017 COP before becoming secretary, said. "But two, this is the biggest global gathering of climate tech and climate solution makers and world leaders, and it's an opportunity to learn from each other, to share solutions and to come home with good ideas and next steps."

She also made clear that the trip is not just about talking with other like-minded officials, it's about putting the ideas raised at the conference to work in Massachusetts as the Baker administration makes plans to meet the state's new emission reduction requirements and to transition the state towards cleaner energy.

"Coming home and implementing is a key part of all of this," she said.

The secretary will participate in conference panels on planning efforts around net-zero commitments, offshore wind issues, climate resilience programs and the future of heat. She said she is eager to tell others about Massachusetts' work around offshore wind, its new future of heat commission and the initial steps in implementing the state's new climate law.

"This is the biggest global gathering of climate tech and climate solution makers and world leaders, and it's an opportunity to learn from each other, to share solutions and to come home with good ideas and next steps."

Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides

She will also spread the word about the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness grant program, which has enrolled 89 percent of all municipalities here to help make infrastructure more resilient against climate change and has been adopted by a number of other American states.

"This is the kind of opportunity where solutions that have worked in Massachusetts can really be shared at scale and we can punch above our weight in terms of our climate impact," Theoharides said.

The week in Scotland will also feature meetings with Scottish government officials and representatives of European offshore wind companies to learn more about floating wind technology and marine life management. Theoharides said she hopes to connect with officials from locales with climates and building stock similar to Massachusetts to be able to discuss how those places are addressing heating needs.

As the secretary departs for Scotland on Saturday, the Baker administration and the utility Avangrid are mulling over how to proceed after Maine voters on Tuesday dealt a serious blow to the New England Clean Energy Connect transmission project that could connect Massachusetts to Canadian hydropower.

"We're continuing to review the decision that was made and the options that are available going forward, and we'll be watching what's happening in court," she said.

Asked if the Baker administration might join or more formally support the lawsuit that corridor backers including Avangrid filed late Wednesday, Theoharides said "I think it's too early to comment on that at this point."

When she lands in Glasgow for COP26, Theoharides could find plenty of familiar faces there.

Bay Stater and former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry keeps a busy schedule as President Joe Biden's special envoy for climate and chief negotiator at the conference. U.S. Sen. Ed Markey is headed to the next week of the conference, as is state Sen. Michael Barrett, who has butted heads and negotiated climate compromises with the secretary.

"The United States needs to recommit to the world that COP also stands for Climate's Our Priority," Markey said. He added, "I look forward to meeting with young people, international leaders, and key stakeholders to discuss efforts on ambition, implementation, and transparency as we work together to tackle the climate crisis."

Northeast Clean Energy Council President Peter Rothstein and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone, who will take over from Rothstein as NECEC president in January, are also Scotland-bound to participate in a panel on decarbonizing the transportation sector alongside the global head of sustainability for Volkswagen Group and others.

NECEC said Friday that it hopes to send the message that "the Northeast region of the U.S. is poised to become an international leader in clean energy and a diverse cleantech economy" through its work and networking in Scotland.

Gisele Bündchen, the retired supermodel who lived for nearly 20 years in the Boston area with her husband Tom Brady, is also among those expected to participate in conference events next week. She is listed as a panelist at a documentary screening.

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